Film Review - Good Hair with Chris Rock
GOOD FOR THE HAIR AND THE SOUL
by William Gooch
published October 9, 2009
now playing nationwide
Back in the day, some of my female relatives chastised me when I tried to achieve that Michael Jackson “Billie Jean”
look by putting an S Curl in my hair. Even my Dad disapprovingly chimed in. My family members were not upset that I wanted to flaunt
Michael Jackson’s coif; what concerned them more was that the relaxer could possibly ruin my “good hair.” However, after the deed was done, I got much props for how fly my processed hair looked.
Like some of the subjects in Chris Rock’s documentary Good Hair, I didn’t dislike the texture of my hair. (Remember, I had what some black folks called good
hair.) I only wanted to style and profile like the black pop stars and celebrities of my generation. Still, I was influenced enough by these
images to dramatically alter the natural quality and sheen of my hair.
Prompted by his daughter’s bewilderment over why she does not have “good hair,” Chris Rock has created a
thought-provoking film that takes us down that rocky road of denial, assimilation and the quest for beauty at any cost. For the African
American community, most of the issues discussed in this documentary have been bandied around in hair salons, barbershops, and behind
closed doors for decades. (And it is still one of the black community’s dirty little secrets.) What Chris Rock adds to this age-old
conversation by publicly taking the lid off of Pandora’s box is to add humor and entertainment value that is sorely missing from a subject
that still makes some black folks uncomfortable.
From interviews with black actresses to well-paid hair stylists to black women who pay exorbitant amounts of money
for mane-enhancing weaves and biweekly hair relaxing treatments, Chris Rock seduces and educates with tales of bad hair treatments, the
costs of maintaining bouncy tresses, trips to Hindu temples to acquire discarded, blessed Indian hair, and even how “good hair,” or the
lack of it, can dynamically affect bedroom play. Layer all this with commentaries from rapper/actor Ice-T and Al Sharpton—two media
personalities known for their processed locks—as well as a unique behind-the-scenes look at the demimonde of black hair shows, and you have
a wild, rip-roaring documentary that gives voice to a billion-dollar industry and exposes everything from street vernacular to attitudes
about “good hair.”
Still, Good Hair is about more than African Americans’ perspectives on
natural versus processed hair. It is a cross-cultural panoramic view on how women and some men of color choose to adorn, flaunt,
accessorize and even politicize their crowning glory. In the words of Nia Long, “Good hair is whatever hair you are comfortable with.” And
that is how it should be.
williamgooch @ stageandcinema.com
read the roundtable discussion of Good Hair with Chris Rock and Nia Long